The social attachments formed between human infants and their caregivers begin very early in postnatal life and play a critical role in children's survival and healthy adaptation. Typically, adults provide infants with a social environment that is fairly consistent. Caregivers learn how to recognize and respond to the infants' needs, thereby creating predictable contingencies in the environment; these regularities, in turn, make the infant's environment secure and conducive to further social learning (1, 2). Multiple perceptual, sensory, cognitive, and affective systems must become synchronized so that a social bond can develop between an infant and caregiver; this bond is then reflected in the child's adaptive behavioral responses to the environment. The goal of this experiment was to address a fundamental evolutionary and developmental question: To what extent are the neurobiological systems that regulate affiliative behaviors dependent on the social experiences afforded to most infants by their caregivers?
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